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6 September 2007

Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce:
Members Tour JSU’s Resource Center

Kelley Haynes, director of the Gadsden State Community College McClellan Campus, speaks to members of the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star

By Steve Ivey
Star Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

JACKSONVILLE — It’s one of the cinder block buildings at McClellan that once housed either chemicals or textbooks for the Army.

Now, the warehouse next to Jacksonville State University’s center at the former fort is stocked with cotton balls, Elmer’s glue, graphing calculators—and more chemicals and books—for hands-on math and science lessons.

Members of the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce education committee toured the facility at their monthly meeting Wednesday.

As the teacher resource center for Jacksonville State University’s region, the warehouse is home to more than 7,000 items for more than 400 kits that rotate among teachers from the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative.

The kits provide all the materials for math projects and science experiments.

It’s part of a plan by Gov. Bob Riley to engage young learners and raise test scores.

“If the teachers are excited, the kids are excited,” said Tanya Barnes, AMSTI coordinator at JSU.

Matt Akin, superintendent in Piedmont, which has two schools participating in AMSTI, said he sees the program’s effects in his own children.

“Usually they think the first day of school is so boring,” he said. “But this year they came home and couldn’t wait to talk about what they had done.”

AMSTI expanded to 589 schools statewide this year. The Legislature set aside $35.8 million for the program this year, up from $22 million last year.

Riley hopes to put AMSTI in all of Alabama’s 1,526 public schools by 2011. This morning, he plans to announce the state has received a highly competitive grant for math and science education.

A study by the Institute for Communication and Information Research at the University of Alabama found that students in elementary grades at the 75 original AMSTI schools had about 85 percent of students pass the Alabama Reading and Math Tests, compared with about 75 percent of students in a control group of schools who did not participate in the initiative.

Middle schools showed about a four-point advantage in percent of students passing the tests.

Barry Cooper, materials manager for the warehouse, said AMSTI has occupied the building for about a year. Teachers receive bins with math equipment for the whole year, and Cooper and others replenish the science kits that rotate in and out.

Greg Potts, vice chair of the education committee, said McClellan provided an ideal location for the resource warehouse.

“It’s right here at the center of the county,” he said. “And education needs to be at the center of our hearts.”

About Steve Ivey

Steve Ivey covers education for the Star.

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